The roots of Deanie’s Seafood go back to 1961, when John and Alma “Deanie” Livacari opened the first seafood market in Bucktown, located where the 17th Street Canal today intersects New Orleans and Metairie by Lake Pontchartrain. Most locals of this rustic fishing village can recall the picturesque image of the docked fishing boats that lined the canal. The area was known for a string of seafood restaurants ranging from quaint shacks like Sid-Mar’s in Bucktown perched over the lake, to the iconic fish houses Bruning’s and Fitzgerald’s, both across the 17th Canal in West End, New Orleans. The Livicaris sold their business to a team of investors led by Frank and Barbara A. Chifici, who expanded Deanie’s Seafood Market and opened Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant in 1982. (Barbara bought out the remaining investors after Frank passed away in 1985, and continues to run the operation with her children today.) Already famous for their fresh, local oysters and boiled crabs, shrimp, and crawfish, Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant entered the fray with a litany of classics ranging from fried seafood platters and po-boys, to BBQ shrimp, étouffée, stuffed crabs, seafood gumbo, stuffed artichokes, chargrilled oysters, and seasonal specialties such as seafood-stuffed mirliton. From its inception, the restaurant was a big hit with locals and visitors alike including legendary guests such as the late Mac Rebennack, who made a point of dining there during his post-Katrina tour of the city on the CBS’ “Sunday Morning” show in 2006.
The dining area at the flagship restaurant in Bucktown remains much how it looked when it first opened, with vintage black and white photographs of Bucktown and “fish art” festooned throughout the room. The newer locations in the French Quarter and in the Garden District are both much larger enterprises, as well as far brighter, more modern, and sleek. Although the menus vary slightly, they all contain Deanie’s signature dishes.
Appetizers include a stack of buttermilk-battered fried onion rings, breaded artichoke hearts served with marinara, and crabmeat stuffed mushrooms with beurre blanc. The crabmeat au gratin is made with an outstanding velvety cream sauce. Fried crab claws, crabmeat or crawfish balls are also offered. Deanie’s BBQ shrimp is also one of the best versions in town, rendered with spiced compound butter. If you want to go to crazy town there are crab or crawfish nachos every bit as decadent and delicious as they sound. However, it’s difficult to pass up the restaurant’s freshly-shucked oysters served raw on the half-shell, or charbroiled with either BBQ butter or Pecorino garlic butter. I kicked up ours with the additional crabmeat and crawfish toppings. In lieu of bread, Deanie’s serves boiled red potatoes, but garlic bread is also available.
Deanie’s also offers classics such as seafood gumbo, chicken and andouille gumbo, crawfish étouffée, and crawfish bisque served with stuffed crawfish heads. These roux-based delights have that rich, medium thickness, and a savory richness that is perfect.
Salad options range from Caesar to shrimp remoulade; the Uptown location serves its remoulade on top of a wedge salad. The Italian salad is served with marinated artichoke hearts, Provolone cheese, Genoa salami, and olive salad. The Bayou Seafood Salad is served with lump crabmeat, boiled shrimp, artichokes, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, and red onions, with a creamy Parmesan dressing. Our favorite was the baby spinach salad topped with crispy fried oysters, and draped with honey mustard dressing.
The entree selections were daunting. There were so many tempting offerings that you’re going to wish you’d brought a lot of friends. First off, the daily fish selections are offered pretty much any way you like: fried, sautéed, grilled, broiled or blackened, with toppings ranging from fried oysters, to crabmeat, crawfish, or étouffée. Then, there’s the crabmeat-stuffed flounder—a true Bucktown classic. Of course, boiled seafood is featured, depending on what’s in season; shrimp are available year round, with crawfish and crabs featured seasonally. Deanie’s is also well known for seafood platters loaded with fried shrimp, catfish, oysters, crawfish balls, and topped with a soft shell crab over a stack of French fries—which, mercifully, is also available as a half-order! Those items can also be served in individual or combo platters. Other classics here include the stuffed crab or the crabmeat-stuffed shrimp. We also loved the quartet presentations: the crawfish options include bisque, étouffée, crawfish balls, and fried crawfish. The crabmeat quartet included a fried soft shell crab, crab balls, fried crab claws, and crabmeat au gratin. Po-boys are also available with fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, and even fried crawfish, which are so good! Deanie’s also offers a “seafood boil” white pizza, BBQ shrimp pasta, and an eight-ounce filet mignon, or a 12-ounce ribeye (depending on the location).
Deanie’s is old-school in the best way, proudly showcasing the bounty of our regional seafood offerings in all the ways Bucktown became famous for. Deanie’s did it first, and still does it best.